Kitty Hudson's murder

North Yorkshire

Although not a true grave, this story is certainly worth including if only for its intrinsic interest

The story of Kitty Hudson's grave began for me one cold January afternoon when, having attended a morning meeting in Helmsley, I took the opportunity to take an afternoon walk on the moors.

Leaving my car at Cowhouse Bank, I followed the road down to Eastmoors Church before venturing off on an erratic course covering a variety of footpaths and terrain. With fading light and a moorland mist clinging to the hills, I stopped for a drink on a rough track, some distance, so I thought, from any habitation.

It came as a surprise therefore, when an approaching car broke the silence. On seeing me the vehicle stopped, disgorging an exceptionally lively sheepdog, immediately followed by an elderly gentleman of farmer-like appearance. After satisfying his initial fears that I might have been lost, our subsequent conversation encompassed a variety of topics. These were generally of an historical nature including the sites of old clay pits, an old pottery, pre-forestation landscapes and old traditions, the elderly gentleman displaying a wealth of knowledge obviously gleaned from a lifetime's local experience.

After some twenty minutes the conversation took a surprising turn when, quite accidentally, he stumbled upon the subject of wayside graves.

"Do you know of Mrs. Hudson's grave?" he asked me. Admitting ignorance I sought further details. "On t'ill, ower a fence" he continued pointing heavenwards.

I then asked him if he knew the reasons behind the grave. The following account recalls the farmer's explanation as rendered to me that misty afternoon

"Yon farm were run by Hesletine family. Ow'd Hesletine's lad 'ad a lass who married an Hudson. To keep family name going each first born lad had Hesletine Hudson as part of his name. First lad born were called Robert Hesletine Hudson. Now he married a lass from up north somewhere, think it were near Newcastle.

After Robert's lad were born, I think he were just plain Hesletine Hudson, he took up with some money and started seeing lass from Midlands. Thinking his wife would greet a bit if she found he were courting another, he thowt he'd do her in. He brought her on holiday to pigeon holes at Helmsley saying it were to show her where his family came from. Anyhow, he took 'er and bairn out on moors one day, shot them and slit throats with carving knife. He buried them in shallow grave just off road but be nivver made a bonny job of it cos road mender, old Barker Tyreman, were coming 'ome that neet when he saw foot sticking out ground.

He thought to 'imself ... . 'That's not reet', so he climbed ower fence and stuck shovel into 'ole. Seeing more of leg and not being ower bright, he thowt he'ed go home and have a think on what to do.

Next morning he told his friend Snowden, and as site were close to job they were on, they thowt they'd both go and 'ave a look. Anyway when they got to grave, 'ole 'ad been filled in and body were gone. Well, they thowt, if they didn't say owt to others no one would trouble them, so they went off to work and nivver mentioned body.

Hudson were caught at Birmingham and 'ung at York. There were a stone put up at site of murder with just the date on it ... 8th June 1895. It were there till war when tanks were based in area. Colonel were looking for summat to shoot at so I said to him 'You're not shooting at memorial lad' and he said ... 'I'll tell thee what I'll do. I'll tak memorial down and bring it back after war

You know what ~ I'm still waiting. Anyway just in case it ivver turns up I keep site of grave marked. Some say colonel had stone buried in trees by grave. I keep thinking one day I'll go and have a dig round to see if it's there"

Having received instructions as to the site, I wandered off in the gloom. It was exactly as the farmer described. The outline of a grave, about 4 metres off the road, was marked quite clearly by branches, obviously placed there by human hands.

The following week I set out verifying the story through the pages of the Malton Gazette. Indeed, the murder took place on exactly the date quoted by my informant, 8th June 1895. Unfortunately the reality of the saga failed to do justice to the farmer's version, the latter being far more indicative of the individuality of Yorkshire folk. It would be unforgivable to destroy the mental image conjured up as one recalls the road mender's reaction to seeing a human foot sticking out of the ground as he made his way home that evening.

Location

The site of the grave lies on the unclassified road which runs almost due north from Helmsley to the west of Ash Dale. Slightly over 1 km. north of High Baxton's Farm a gate, set slightly back on the left, guards the entrance to a rough track. Immediately through this gate stands a clump of stunted Scots pines. The site of Kate Hudson's initial grave lies central in these trees and was, at the time of viewing, January 1988, clearly marked with branches.

Does the army knows the whereabouts of the memorial?